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Families Heal Together

A new guest house at OHSU will serve families who must travel to Portland for care.

Presented by OHSU Foundation April 5, 2017

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McKenna Matteson, age 11, is all too familiar with the drive from her home in Eugene to Portland. When she was little, she used to measure the distance by the number of times she could watch the movie “Monsters, Inc.” So far, she’s made the trip more than 60 times. Her destination is OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where she has been treated since the age of two for the effects of brain cancer. Sixteen surgeries are behind her, but McKenna doesn’t focus on that. She’s focused on what’s in front of her.

“Always look up. Never look down.” That’s her advice. “If you are sick right now, you will get better someday.”

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Each year, thousands of families like McKenna’s travel to OHSU and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for life-saving treatment. And when they arrive, they need someplace to stay – often for weeks at a time. A new building under construction on Portland’s South Waterfront will soon be that place. The Gary & Christine Rood Family Pavilion is a five-story, 76-suite guest house that will serve as a temporary home base for OHSU patients who come from all corners of Oregon and beyond for specialized medical care. The guest house is named in honor of Gary and Christine Rood of Vancouver, Wash., who donated $12 million in April 2016 to help construct the facility.

When families are facing serious illness, they need a place to be together, share a meal, do homework, rest and heal. The Rood Family Pavilion will be all that and more. The guest house will provide a mix of private and shared spaces, where kids can play and families can support each other. “I think that the play areas will be the most important,” says McKenna, “because it is nice to have friends who are in the same situation and who know how you feel.”

For adults, what looms largest are the logistical and financial demands of finding a place to stay in Portland. A medical crisis upends the best laid plans, requiring patients and caregivers to leave their jobs, homes, and families behind. “It’s so important to have someplace to stay that’s not financially draining, because so much of cancer is financially draining,” says McKenna’s mom, Laura. Families will be able stay at the new guest house for free or at a very low cost.

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The Rood Family Pavilion will be just a block away from the Portland Aerial Tram and its four-minute connection to OHSU Hospital and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. It’s also across the street from a new outpatient cancer treatment facility set to open in 2019. OHSU will own the guest house, but Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon & Southwest Washington will provide services and programming to all pediatric families, and management services for adult families.

The Rood Family Pavilion is being funded entirely through the generosity of private donors. The construction site is bustling and fundraising is nearing the final goal. “It’s more than a building,” says Gary Rood. “It’s about the people we can help.” Earlier in his career, Gary was a hospital administrator at OHSU and witnessed the need for a guest house on a daily basis. His wife, Christine, was born in eastern Oregon and understands what it’s like to drive five hours to a hospital. Together, they’re committed to the type of philanthropy that helps us all take care of each other.

Learn more about the Rood Family Pavilion and how you can contribute at www.onwardohsu.org/guesthouse.